Nigeria: Trapped Foreign Airline Revenue – Issues, Implications

The International Air Transport Association, IATA, recently opened a can of worms in Nigeria’s aviation sector when it alleged that Nigeria is withholding $450 million in revenue of international carriers operating in the country.

This is in excess of the $85 million allegedly been trapped from the revenue of Emirates Airlines.

IATA vice president for Africa and the Middle East, Kamal Al Awadhi, described talks with Nigerian officials to release the funds as a “hectic ride”.

Al Awadhi, who spoke in Doha on the eve of IATA’s annual meeting of airline chiefs said “We keep chipping away and hoping that it clicks that this is going to damage the country down the road.”

IATA has so far had held two rounds of talks with Nigerian officials, including from the Central Bank, who Al Awadhi said were “not responsive” to releasing cash.

Another round of talks between IATA and Nigerian officials is expected to start soon, the airline lobby group said, without specifying when.

However, chief executive officer of an aviation company, Segun Adewale, has urged the federal government to expeditiously repatriate the about $450 million ticket revenue belonging to foreign airlines operating in the country.

Adewale, also former vice-chairman, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) gave the charge in a statement he issued.

Adewale appealed to the ministers of Aviation, Finance and the CBN to do the needful and ensure release of forex.

Adewale stated that revenue from ticket sales which accumulated since 2021 till July 2022 was blocked by the CBN from being repatriated to airline operators through the International Air Transport Association.

Also, the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, has called on the federal government to utilise crude trapped funds.

The union stated that the development which has turned the nation’s image negatively globally if not addressed now poses a major threat to the employment and livelihood of thousands of workers.

NUATE made this call in a letter signed by its general secretary, Ocheme Aba, titled: ‘Foreign Airlines’ Trapped Dollars: A Looming Catastrophy – Call For Extraordinary Action’ and addressed to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

Part of the letter reads: “The ugly situation of hundreds of millions of dollars earned by foreign airlines operating into Nigeria, but which they have been unable to repatriate due to Nigeria’s foreign exchange challenges has already been blown out by local and foreign media, bringing colossal collateral damage to Nigeria’s image.”

Meanwhile, the minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said that the federal government is working hard to resolve the issues.

In line with this, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) just released $265 million to foreign airlines operating in the country for the remittance of a part of their revenues trapped in the country.

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